Writing

WORDS FOR WRITERS: Should You Publish on a Reading App?

WORDS FOR WRITERS: Should You Publish on a Reading App?

Have a finished graphic novel, comic, or manuscript, and wondering if posting it to Wattpad, Radish, Webtoon, or one of the other of the dozens of Reading Apps available out there? That’s great! Hey, I’m on some of them and I find the apps, and the writers communities on them, quite nice. I would never steer any writer away from the apps, but I would encourage any new users to approach them thoughtfully and deliberately.

If you have a project that you want to post to an app, my first instinct would be to ask:

a) what the project is, and
b) what your goal with it is.

Depending on your answer to both of those things, Wattpad (or any of the other serializing platforms like it) may or may not be the right choice for your project.

What is Your Project?

Original Work – make sure that wherever you choose to share the book, there’s a clear ToS that indicates that the copyright of the novel stays with the creators at all times. Also take a look at the recommended chapter/part/episode length on the different platforms–you may find your work better suited to one or the other based on the platform’s word length requirements or best practices notices.

Genre and Medium – different sorts of projects thrive on different platforms. Radish is great for steamy, spicy, dark, sexy romances. Tapas seems to be the shrine of BoysLove/BL graphic novels/thumbscrollers. Wattpad is great for fandom work and YA. Webtoons seems to be a great place for KDrama style comics. Take a good hard look at your work’s genre and where other works like yours thrive, and figure out which platform already comes pre-loaded with your ideal readership–there are loads more than just the four I mentioned. And that’s just from my casual interactions with them — I’m sure there’s lots of other amazing niches that I’m not catching. (Note: some platforms have strict rules about how many other places you can publish the same work, and at what times, especially if you’re monetizing it.)

Fanfic – Like the above, consider the different sites and see which one has the legal protection, curation, and fandom/readership that would best suit your tale. You can’t monetize fanfic, so going where the readers are is the best way to get all those kudos and warm fuzzies.

What is Your Goal?

Just Sharing For the Fun of it / Practice – I’d say dive right in, then! Who knows what will happen! You might get some great feedback, make some awesome friends, garner some great moots and build a wonderful and supportive community, and learn loads. There’s nothing saying you can’t share one for free and then look into monetizing the next project.

To Make Money – people can be stingy and judgey with things that are behind paywalls, so make sure your work is the most polished it can be, and fits the best practices of the site you’ve chosen as well as you’re able. On some sites you’re allowed to control whether you’d like to monetize your work, and some others you have to apply to/ submit to be considered. Take a good look at each of the models on the sites you’re considering and decide which one works best for what you want.

To Get Traditionally Published – the path from selfpublished on a serialization site to traditionally published is a very thin, not particularly well-worn one. Besides the books specifically hand picked by the Wattpad Books and W by Wattpad publishing teams (usually through the Watty Awards), or their graphic novel/comic side Webtoon who publish the Webtoon Unscrolled books, I can think of vanishingly few novels that have been selfpubbed first and then picked up for traditional publication. If you want your project to be tradpubbed, maybe try querying agents and indie publishers first.

That said, having a project on a site like Wattpad will give you a lot of experience and metrics that you can brag about if you elect to query around a second or different project. I cite my serialization site readership numbers in my tradpub marketing documents all the time.

Have a Movie Made – Maybe take a screenwriting class instead? If the ultimate goal is to get a movie made of your story, why not just write a movie? It is a lot rarer than it seems from the outside for a novel to be adapted, and if that’s the only reason you’re doing it, consider that maybe you’re writing for the wrong medium. For more info on that, read my article about How Books Become Movies.

Become Internet Famous – You do you, I guess. I have no idea how it would work, and no advice for that because I am deffo not Internet Famous, and have no desire to be. Looks exhausting. But don’t let me stop you!

Already Available

No matter what serialization site you choose to publish on, be aware that this means the manuscript will forevermore be what is considered “Already Published” by the whole traditional publishing business machine. It’s out there for free already–so why should any agent or publisher pick it up when they won’t be able to get readers to pay for it?

There are very, very few agents and publishers willing to look at Already Available projects , and generally only those with massive pre-existing readerships and fanbases.

If you’re okay with that, then by all means, selfpub on these sites. But go into it knowing that the tradpub world considers posting to serialization apps to be basically equivalent to selfpubbing (and that’s neither good, nor bad. No value judgement here. It just means that they’d have to approach the marketing and business side of things in a certain kind of way. For all that they deal in stories and sell beautiful pieces of writer’s souls and imagination, never forget that tradpub is An Industry ™, and many, many of the decisions are made because Capitalism.)

Do your Research

Talk to other writers on the site if it seems scammy, or the offers are Too Good to Be True. Be careful where you share your original work and what you agree to. Read all the contracts and Terms of Service thoroughly.

Be Honest About Your Pace

Writers find success on these sorts of apps by being consistent with thier posting, and delivering quality stories. Each app will have Best Practices articles that will tell you more about how best to succeed with thier serialization algorithms, but they all basically boil down to: post on a schedule, don’t miss a day, and always deliver the goods.  If you (like me) know that you cannot write in order, hate sharing works in progress, and worry that your enthusiasm for the project will fizzle before you reach “the end”, then maybe considering not uploading and releasing parts of the book until it’s totally complete. However, if you thrive under a deadline and pressure, then maybe releasing as you write/create will be a boon! You do you, but make sure you are making the choice deliberately. Readers are less likely to subscribe to a creator who starts and then abandons projects.

Be Prepared to Hustle

That’s not to say that there’s no hustle involved with getting your work out there, particularly on social media, if you are a traditionally published author. There’s loads, especially post-publication as most marketing efforts and budgets are spent on the pre-release leadup.

But if you’re selfpubbing on a serialization site, you’re going to have to do all of your own marketing and talking yourself up. That includes joining and participating on forums, discords, chat groups, writer’s groups; creating and sharing graphics and book trailers on social media; BookTokking (if you like that sort of thing); volunteering at conventions or meetups; hosting workshops or free writer’s lessons, and answering Qs like these (* winky face *); submit it for on-site promotions and contests; etc.

You’ll have to review recent trends in book covers for your age market, genre, and platform and create a cover that will attract the right readers. You’ll need to craft pitch copy for your book using the same research and meticulous editing. And you’ll need to look into metrics to figure out what time of day/day of the week it’s best to drop new parts/episodes/chapters.

And of course, what took you months, perhaps years to write and perfect, it takes readers a mere matter of hours to consume. So you’ll always need to be thinking of the next project if you’re looking to build a sustained career and readership out of the posting.

Or you know, maybe you don’t have to do any of that. Maybe you can just share exactly how you want to, when you want to, why you want to, and enjoy that too! Again it all depends on what your goals are.

What you choose to put into it, you will probably mostly get back out of it. Sweat equity Return on Investment is always a crapshoot.

(But hey, I keep doing it because I enjoy it. I love sharing stories and reading people’s comments and enthusiasms for my tales.)

In the End, There are No Guarantees

So wherever you decide to post, however you decide to post, make sure that you keep your expectations realistic and your heart open. Everything you hope may come to pass, or your story could sink and get no views. Make sure you’re okay with either happening, and remember to celebrate all the little wins, and have fun!

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JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: Should You Publish on a Reading App?
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WORDS FOR WRITERS: Pitch Packages – Updated

WORDS FOR WRITERS: Pitch Packages – Updated

It’s been half a decade since I last posted about pitch packages, and what you need to do to make your novel query-ready, so it’s time to update my advice!

What is a Pitch Package?

Also called a Query Package, or a Pitch Doc, this is a collection of very specific documents and write ups. You’ll need to have these documents along with you as you quest through the query trenches, and adventure along the publishing and marketing journey. But why?

Simply put: because agents, editors, publishers, and marketers are going to ask for it.

The documents that you create for this package will help a publisher or agent decide whether they’d like to take on you or your book. But after you land an agent and publisher, these documents will also have a second life in supporting the work done by your publicist, marketing team, and even yourself when it comes time to hype your book sales. It can even have a third life as the basis for a pitches used by your foreign rights agents and / or dramatic rights agents, and if you snag a dramatic adaptation option, as a part of the film / TV Bible or Pitch Doc.

In short, they’re dead useful, if… extremely involved to create. But trust me, it’s worth it. You’ll thank me later when someone asks for something specific, and you can just reach into your folder and offer it up with a smile.

Things You Will Absolutely Need

  • The manuscript

The totally complete (beta’d, edited, polished) manuscript. If you’re not done writing the book, don’t bother pitching or querying it. You never know when someone is going to ask for the full within hours of you submitting the query, and if you don’t have it ready, you’re not going to look very professional, and thus worth taking on.

You only get to make a first impression once, so make sure that first impression is impeccable.

Manuscripts should generally be formatted as:

-Title Page with the title of book, your name, your mailing address, phone number and email address, and the wordcount.
-Headers which include your Surname, the title of the book, and the page number. (I format it as SURNAME | BOOK TITLE | ##).
-In a very widely used font, like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Courier New is also okay, but unnecessary if you don’t prefer it.
-1″ margins all around the page.
-Double spaced.
-Bolds in Bold, Italtics in Italics, Underlines in Underlines. (no need to * word * or _ word _ like in the olden typewriter days).
-If you’re feeling fancy, you can set up an Outline or Bookmark chapter headings in Word/your writing program to make it easier to navigate between chapters, but it’s not necessary.
-No need to include dedications, acknowledgements, maps, or character lists in this version – the point is to let the book speak for itself. You can, however, add that stuff to the end of the book if you think it will make it easier to read.

  • Manuscript Samples

Some agents / publishers ask for writing samples instead of asking for the whole novel all at once. Make sure you have a few files separated out of:

– just the first chapter
– just the first three chapters
– just the first five chapters
– just the first five pages (double-spaced)
– just the first fifty pages (double-spaced)
– and just the first hundred pages (double-spaced)

Ensure they are super-polished. These are the chapters that will speak for the whole of your novel, so make sure they’re on their best behavior. Generally speaking, I find you can start straight at Chapter One, with no Title page so long as you ensure your Name / Title of the Book / Page # are in the header of the document.

  • Synopsis 

I’ve already covered how to write a synopsis pretty extensively in this post here, so go have a look-see at that article when you’re ready to write your Synopsis. Make sure you write one in all three lengths (single spaced 5 pages, 3 pages, 1 page) as you’ll want to have them prepared for whatever size is requested. It’s very important that you include how the book ends in the synopsis–surprise the readers, not your agent.

  • Back Cover Copy

This is the one-to-three paragraph description of the book that is simultaneously a sales pitch and a way to hook the person holding your book (or reading the description on a website), and entices them to buy it. It should be in the voice of the book, easy to understand without leaning too heavily on tired cliché, and leave the reader wanting more. For examples of cover copy for my books, check out my store. Sometimes I write this before I finish the novel, sometimes I write it after, but always make sure you really work the copy to make sure it’s polished, intriguing, and accurately describes the book as it is, not as you intended to write it.

I would also suggest writing a long version of the pitch (5-7 paragraphs), a medium version (3 paragraphs, the most common length), and a short version (1 paragraph). You’ll use the medium length version the most often, especially in the query letter, but I’ve found it really useful to have all three lengths. I use the one paragraph version on my website bookstore, and the long version when I’m providing media kits to press, awards, librarians, or students.

  • Elevator pitch

Now that you have your hooky pitch paragraph, condense it down into a single sentence. I know, brutal, but so dang useful.

This is called an elevator pitch because it’s what you would use if you had the length of exactly one elevator ride with a high-level executive to get their buy-in. An example of this would be (from a graphic novel I’m pitching): “Bridget Jones’ Diary meets The Avengers in a graphic novel about a blogger who goes on dates and imagines her beaus as various superheroes based on their quirks and failings. But when her dating blog becomes viral-popular, our heroine must face the consequences of fame at the expense of others.”

Even better, if you can get it down to a Tweet-able size, there are Twitter Pitch Contests that allow you to pitch agents via social media. I would recommend having four or five versions of the Twitter-length pitch, as the contests allow you to post more than once per contest, and it’s a good way to highlight different aspects of your novel.

  • Comparable titles

Everyone will ask for this. This is your “[TITLE] meets [TITLE] in an amazing adventures / sweeping love story / unputdownable thriller” comparison. You’ll want to pick books that are well known enough in the category / genre / age range you’re writing in, but not so overblown-famous that it comes across as a bit silly and ignorant of where your book sits to cite it. For example, if you’re writing a fantasy court politics epic, don’t use Game of Thrones. See what else out there fits the tone and mood of your book more narrowly and specifically, and cite that instead.

This is a hard thing to pin down, and will shift every few months, based on what you’ve read recently, what’s just come out, and how people react to your query letter. I’ve had agents tell me that the comparables I used in my query gave them a false impression of the genre by mistake, which is why they rejected it. Be aware what the books you choose are insinuating about your own.

Feel free to cite books outside of your age range or genre if they replicate the tone, mood, or themes, but make it clear why you’re citing them.

If you want to be very nerdy about it, you can make a list of books like yours, who wrote them, when they were published, and if that title is good to use in marketing because it was a hit, or if it’s too obscure, dated, or flopped. Separate the list out into age range, genre, and non-book comparisons. (For example, “Middle grade” is the age range, “episodic adventure” is the genre, and non-book comparisons for a Middle grade adventure (such as Adrienne Kress’ The Explorers series) would be The GooniesKim Possible, and Spy Kids. 

Keep this to one page or less and pick out the most apt two or three for use in your query letter.

  • Query Paragraph

This is the paragraph you put in your query letter to introduce the book to an agent/publisher/editor. This paragraph should include: the word count, the genre, the age-range, the comparable titles, whether it’s a stand-alone or has series potential, and why you think the agent/publisher in particular should consider it.

For example, this is the QP for my current novel is:

NINE-TENTHS is a 128k grounded romantic fantasy that combines the subtle magic of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (V. E. Schwab) with the queer-romance-with-world-stage-stakes of A Strange and Stubborn Endurance (Foz Meadows), and the quirky tone and direct-address of She-Hulk (Disney+). It’s a stand-alone novel with potential for other novels set in the same world, which don’t necessarily need to be direct sequels. It’s also timely, as it deals with the death of monarchs and the dissolution of an empire that no longer serves the people it commands. I’m particularly excited to send this book to you, [DEAREST AGENT], as you mention in your wish-list that you have a soft spot for mouthy bi disasters; both my main character and I are just that.

  • Target Market

Write an overview of who your target demographic of readers is. Imagine where in the book store your book will be shelved, or what kind of end-table display it may be on, and describe the other books and authors that may be on that display with you. Be clear about the age range, the genre(s), as well as the tone and the mood. Think about the tropes you’ve used that might lure readers to your work (like fanfiction tags). Think about the kinds of TV shows or films your ideal readership would be into, and what kind of hobbies they might have.

For example, if you were writing a novel about a contemporary teenaged boy who wins a contest to marry a prince, but doesn’t actually want to upend his life, and ends up in love with the prince anyway, it might be: “YA market, fans of contemporary queer romance, fans of enemies-to-lovers and sunshine/grumpy tropes, fans of TV shows like Heartstopper and Young Royals, fans of Casey McQuiston and TJ Klune, instagram ‘royalcore-vibe-influencers'”

You can be as detailed as you like, but most agents want it 500 characters or less.

  • Biography

Write a 100 word, a 150 word, a 300 word, and a 500 word version of this. Cite any previous awards or achievements that relate to writing (Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, or Watty Award for Best Romance, or High Honors at the Pop Culture Conference, or even Over Five Thousand Reads on AO3, or Best Angst Story in the Good Omens Fanfiction Awards), and any other completed writing works (“has self-published three novels, and completed a PhD thesis in astroradiology”, or “writer of a weekly advice column in the local newspaper”, etc.).  Include a reference to why you are the only person who can tell this story this way – for example, if this is a story about a doctor, and you are a doctor, say so. I wrote my MA Thesis on Mary Sue Fan-Fiction and amateur portal fantasy, so when I talk about my meta portal-fantasy series The Accidental Turn, I always talk about that thesis – I’m uniquely qualified to write this book I did because I wrote that thesis.

You’ll use the 300-500 word versions the most, but it’s great to have the shorter versions on hand if you’re asked by press or media for a snappier version.

  • Other Questions

If you’re using QueryManager/Tracker to submit your query to agents, consider starting a document of “Other Commonly Asked Questions”. Agents generally request the above info on that site, but they also sometimes ask for:

-If you’ve self-published a novel, how many copies did it sell in the first year?
-Why are you the right person to tell this story?
-If you are not a member of the marginalized community you’re writing from/about, why are you the one to tell this story?
-Do you have playlist or favorite song for this novel?
-Do you have a mood board or aesthetic image for this novel?
-If you had a literary agent previously, why did you leave them?
-What do you love the most about this novel?
-What was the inspiration for writing this novel?
-If you could pick the perfect publisher for this novel, which one would it be and why?
-What is your book about?
-What is the hook for your book?
-List the Trigger Warnings/Content Warnings for this book

I’ve had to provide answers to the above questions at least three times each, which is why I added a “random other questions” document to my package.

Things You May or May Not Need

  • Character breakdown (with pronunciation guide if they’re not contemporary names)

This is a list of the major characters in the book, and a small paragraph about each of them including their name, age-range, and possibly their gender and/or sexual orientation if it’s important to the story. I would avoid including images, unless this is a graphic novel you’re pitching; let the reader imagine what the characters look like based on your descriptions in the prose. Talk about the character’s role in the story, their driving desires, and why this story has to happen to them, specifically, and not another character. This would be something like the way I describe the main character from my novel Triptych:

“Kalp: An alien from a broken world, he as elected to identify as male on Earth. A refugee grateful what meagre aide the people of this world can offer, Kalp takes on a job as a translator for The Institute, working with humans Gwen and Basil to reverse engineer technologies from his homeworld to help solve climate and social crises on this new one. Close proximity breeds affection, though, and Kalp can’t help his growing attraction and tender feelings toward his colleagues. He worries that that his feelings are only born of pathetic gratitude, and struggles with whether he should declare himself and risk his position at the Institute, and the belonging he so desperately craves.”

  • Marketing ideas

Do not send this with your initial pitch / query.

Firstly, only ever send what the agent / publisher / editor asks for, and send all of what they ask for.

Secondly, this isn’t something that you should really send to anyone until someone on the marketing team says “Do you have any marketing ideas?”.

Why? Because you job is to write the book. It’s everyone else’s job to sell it, and swerving into their lane may come off as arrogant or unprofessional.

Having said that, when they do ask if you have ideas, it looks great if you really do!

Consider keeping a “Swipe File” – that is, a folder of cool ideas you’ve seen other authors or artists use – and a list of “Things it may be neat to do”, so that when it does come time to discuss marketing, you a have some awesome ideas to bring to the table. Also, put things on this list of varying price points, and be aware that pretty much everything costs money or time, though always varying amounts of both. (Book displayed face-out in a major bookstore chain = $$$; setting up an ebook review blog tour = ⏰; creating and printing bookmarks = $ & ⏰)

  • Personal reach

It sounds crass, but this section is basically a list of who you know and which relationships you can exploit to market your book. Know some chat show TV producers, or someone who does a podcast that would let you come on to talk about your work, or still in touch with your MFA prof and have the ability to go in and do a guest lecture? Say so.

Also list your social media follower count and explain how you engage with them, and what the main topics of conversation are. Talk about your newsletter reach (if you have one). If you’ve self-published anything, share how many units you’ve sold and what kind of reader engagement it’s produced. Include reads and votes for previous novels and stories on fiction sharing sites such as Wattpad, Tapas, Tappy Toon, Radish, etc., as this counts as an audience you could market your novel to.

  • Additional materials

Again, don’t send this unless you are explicitly asked for it, or you’ve developed enough of a relationship with your editor / agent that you know it will be welcome, but do absolutely keep a folder of “stuff” that doesn’t fall into any of the categories above, such as:

-maps you may have hand-drawn or computer-generated
-some cover art ideas, or a collection of covers for other books that you think are a good example of what you were thinking
-character sketches or commissioned art
-stock images, moodboards, or aesthetics posts
-deleted scenes or alternate endings/moments (these are a marketing goldmine)
-playlists

Things You May Want To Do But Don’t Have To

  • Screenplay Treatment

I’m gonna put a big fat caveat on this one, and say that as a novelist this isn’t actually your job. If your novel gets picked up for a dramatic adaptation, you may be asked to write a treatment then, but honestly it’s the screenwriter who should be writing the treatment, as it’s the map to the screenplay itself.

Having said that, I did once have an agent ask me to write a screenplay treatment for my novel to make it easier for his entertainment agent to pitch. As I have experience as a screenwriter, I did it, but it didn’t quite feel like something that ought to have been on my plate. So if you want to take a crack at writing the treatment, you can find out all about the process here. (I mean, basically, a Treatment is pretty much the exact same thing as a book Synopsis, with specific formatting requirements and more focus on the fact that film is a visual medium.)

What To Send While Querying

Remember, while you’ve put together all these materials, only send agents / editors / publishers what they ask for. To do otherwise looks like you couldn’t be bothered to read or follow their directions, which does not make them want to take you on. Nobody wants to work with people who can’t follow very simple, clear directions.

As a result, you may create a document that you never, ever use, and that’s okay. It’s a good reference for you, and a good artistic exercise; no work you do on your novel is ever wasted. I’ve found that there are times that I dive into my Pitch Package folder years after the book is out to fetch one of my assets for some reason or another, and I end up being very glad it’s there!

So have fun putting together your Pitch Package, and best of luck out there querying!

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Still have questions? Read more WORDS FOR WRITERS posts here or ASK ME HERE.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: Pitch Packages – Updated
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COVER REVEAL: Worldbuilding Through Culture

COVER REVEAL: Worldbuilding Through Culture

This beautiful cover is by Ruthanne Reid, and always, it’s fantastic.

It’s taken nearly two years of work, but I have finally completed converting my in-person presentation workshop “Worldbuilding Through Culture” into a workbook! Originally conceived and given as a presentation to help writers break out of their own cultural biases in order to create a thorough and imaginative secondary world, it was re-jigged into a downloadable guide and question list when the first Lockdowns hit, and all the in-person version of my workshop was cancelled.

Since then, I’ve been working to create a version that you, the creator, can buy and write directly in. Once you’ve worked your way through the concept introductions, question lists, and prompts, you’ll literally be able to hold the scope of your secondary world in your hand. And, better than that, you’ll have everything you need to refer to right there, all in one place.

The workbook is divided into chapters, with note-taking space, for:

HOW TO USE THIS WORKBOOK
INTRODUCTION TO CULTUREBUILDING
FINDING YOUR STARTING POINT
THE BIG QUESTIONS
THE SMALL QUESTIONS
THE SLIDING SCALE
LANGUAGE AND DIALOGUE
CHARACTER SKETCHES

Buying links are coming soon, as the approvals are still wending their way through the labyrinth of the printing house. But I hope to have it on sale for November 15, 2022.

JM FreyCOVER REVEAL: Worldbuilding Through Culture
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WORDS FOR WRITERS: Types of Editing

WORDS FOR WRITERS: Types of Editing

There are many ways to approach manuscript editing, each with its own particular process, and nearly every editor and writing advice site has their or its own method.  This post will describe the most common types, explain what they’re for, and provide questions you can ask yourself to ensure that you’re approaching this stage in the best way possible.

Bear in mind that this is my preferred order to do these kinds of editing, but feel free to do whatever works for you.

Click here to read the full article | Read more Words for Writers Articles here

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: Types of Editing
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WORDS FOR WRITERS: Stages of Editing

WORDS FOR WRITERS: Stages of Editing

Draft one of a manuscript is for you. In this draft, you get to tell your story to yourself. You can write as much as you want, go off on tangents or side quests, or infodump and worldbuild to your heart’s content.

Draft two is for your readers. Draft two is where you rework the story you told yourself to ensure that you transmit it to the readers in a way that is entertaining, enjoyable, and understandable. That’s not to say it has to be basic or simplistic—but it must be comprehensible.

As Neil Gaiman is fond of saying: In draft one, write down everything that happens. In draft two, go back and make it look like you knew what you were doing all along.

So where do you start? Here’s how I usually break up my phases of editing.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: Stages of Editing
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